This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Hedera Arborea C. B. Hedera communis major J. B. Hedera Helix Linn. Ivy: an evergreen plant, climbing and spreading on trees and old walls; with numerous slender twigs, and angular leaves. When grown old, the angles of the leaves disappear, the plant becomes erect, produces flowers, small and herbaceous, in autumn, and clutters of black berries in winter.
The leaves of ivy have a very nauscous taste, and little or no smell. Haller says, they are commended in Germany against the atrophy of children. Among us they are sometimes applied externally by the common people to running fores, and for keeping issues open.
The berries were supposed by the ancients to have a purgative and emetic quality; and an extract made from them by water is called by Quercetanus extractum purgans. Later writers have recommended them in small doses, as alexipharmac and sudorific: it is said, that in the London plague, the powder of them was given in vinegar or white wine with good success. It is probable, however, that the virtue of this compound was rather owing to the vehicle than to the ivy-berries.
From the stalks of this plant exudes, in the eastern countries, and sometimes in our own (a), a resinous juice, which has been directed as an officinal, under the name of gummi hederae. This is in hard compact masses, externally of a reddish brown colour, internally of a bright brownish yellow with reddish specks or veins, of a vitreous glossinefs, but not pellucid, of a light agreeable smell when rubbed or heated, and a refinous subastringent taste. Rectisied spirit receives from it a deep brownish red tincture, and dissolves near three fourths: near one fourth remains undissolved after the successive action of water and spirit. It has been recommended as corroborant, and resolvent, in cachexies, and uterine obstructions; but has rarely been otherwise made use of than as an ingredient in plasters: nor does it appear to have any virtues that common resin does not possess in at least an equal degree.